Marine Corps War Memorial
Marine Corps University Logo
History Division
Quantico, Virginia


The Marine Corps War Memorial stands as a symbol of a grateful nation's esteem for the honored dead of the United States Marine Corps. Although the statue depicts one of the most famous incidents of World War II, the Memorial is dedicated to all Marines who have given their lives in the defense of the United States since 1775. Shortly after Associated Press news photographer Joe Rosenthal's inspiring action picture of the Marines raising the second flag on Mount Suribachi was released, Sculptor Felix W. de Weldon, then on duty with the Navy, constructed a scale model and then a life-size model inspired by the scene.

The three survivors of the flag raising, Rene A. GagnonIra Hayes, and John Bradley posed for Mr. de Weldon, who modeled their faces in clay. All available pictures and physical statistics of the three Marines who gave their lives were assembled and used in the modeling of their faces. The figures were originally molded in the nude so that the strain of muscles would be prominently shown after clothing was modeled on the struggling figures.

Steel framework, roughly duplicating the bone structure of the human body, was assembled to support the huge figures under construction. Once the statue was completed in plaster it was carefully disassembled into 108 pieces and trucked to the Bedi-Rassy Art Foundry, Brooklyn, New York for casting in bronze. The casting process, which required the work of experienced artisans, took nearly three years.

After the parts had been cast, cleaned, finished, and chased, they were reassembled into approximately a dozen pieces and brought back to Washington by a three-truck convoy. Erection of the Memorial on the edge of Arlington Cemetery near the Virginia's approaches to Memorial Bridge was begun in September of 1954. It was officially dedicated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on November 10, 1954.


The figures on the statue are 32 feet high; they are erecting a bronze flagpole 60 feet in length. The figures are placed on a rock slope rising approximately 6 feet from a 10 foot base. Overall height of the statue is 78 feet. A cloth flag flies from the pole.

The M1 rifle carried by one of the figures is approximately 16 feet long, the carbines about 12 feet long. The canteen, if filled, would hold 32 quarts of water.

The figures of the statue are standing on rough Swedish granite. The concrete face of the statue is covered with blocks of polished Swedish black granite. Burnished into the granite, in gold lettering, are the names and dates of principal Marine Corps engagements since the Corps was founded in 1775. Also inscribed on the base is the tribute of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz to the fighting men on Iwo Jima: "Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue." Opposite this, on the base is the inscription: "In honor and in memory of men of the United States Marine Corps who have given their lives to their country since November 10, 1775."

The Site

The Memorial site is a seven and one-half acre tract of land bordering the northern end of Arlington National Cemetery, and overlooking Washington, D.C., near the western end of Memorial Bridge. The entire cost of the statue and developing the Memorial site was $850,000, donated by U.S. Marines, former Marines, Marine Corps Reservists, friends of the Marine Corps, and members of the Naval Service. No public funds were used for the monument.

For more than four decades, the Marine Corps War Memorial has stood overlooking our nation's capital, joining other Memorials to honor those who have made this nation great. 

Tab 4

The Flags

The flags raised that day on Mount Suribachi are currently preserved and displayed at the National Museum of the Marine Corps on a rotating basis. 

The image on the right displays the second flag that was raised that day.


Marine Corps War Memorial Battle Honors

First Band: Revolutionary War - Korea (1775-1950)

Revolutionary War 1775-1783
French Naval War 1798-1801
Tripoli 1801-1805
War of 1812 1812-1815
Florida Indian Wars 1835-1842
Mexico 1846-1848
War Between the States 1861-1865
Spanish War 1898
Philippine Insurrection 1898-1902
Boxer Rebellion 1900
Nicaragua 1912
Vera Cruz 1914
Haiti 1915-1934
Santo Domingo 1916-1924
World War I 1917-1918
Belleau Wood
St. Mihiel
Blanc Mont
Nicaragua 1926-1933
World War II
1941 Pearl Harbor
Wake Island
Bataan & Corregidor
1942 Midway
1943 New Georgia
New Britain
1944 Marshall Islands
Marianas Islands
1945 Iwo Jima
Korea 1950

Second Band: Lebanon - Somalia (1958-1994)

Lebanon 1958
Vietnam 1962-1975
Dominican Republic 1965
Lebanon 1981-1984
Grenada 1983
Persian Gulf 1987-1991
Panama 1988-1990
Somalia 1992-1994

Reference Branch
Marine Corps History Division


Marine Corps University